Glacier National Park: Piegan Pass, Many Glacier, Ptarmigan Tunnel, Belly River, Fifty Mountain Loop

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Here is a short report of a 5 day backpacking loop I did in Glacier National Park. Joining me was my youngest brother Andrew, who is exactly 11 years younger than me (we share the same birthday), and his best friend Sterling, who is pretty much like another brother to us. After years of talking about it, they finally came out for a backpacking trip. We spent several days sight seeing around the park, before starting our trip.
Here is the route: http://caltopo.com/map?id=2E2K
glacier map overview.png


DAY 1 MAP
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We started from the Going To The Sun Road, and headed up over Piegan Pass. My brother Andrew is to the left, Sterling is to the right.
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In this view, you can see Piegan Pass, where we are headed. The saddle right of the snowfields.
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In this view, Piegan Glacier is in the center
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Me, hiking up towards the pass
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Here you can see the road we came up from. Blackfoot and Jackson Glaciers are visible in far distance, Jackson Peak is on the right.
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Are first look down into the Many Glacier Valley, the Grinnell Lake drainage. The Garden Wall, aka Continental Divide, is to the left.
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Me at the pass
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Looking back up at the pass, after dropping down.
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The boys hiking down from the pass:
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Waterfalls are everywhere in Glacier
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Looking back at Lake Josephine
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Our first night's camp was at the Many Glacier Campground. It's a car campground, but it has backpacker sites. We got in to camp rather late, so I'm going to cheat and show a few pictures from another trip. These are taken at the Many Glacier Hotel, on Swiftcurrent Lake. Probably my favorite non backcountry site in America.
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DAY 2 AND 3 MAP
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Day 2. Mutiny! So I thought these 22 year old college boys would be in shape for this. They had been "training", or so they said. To my dismay, they began to ask about bailing out and taking a shuttle bus back to the car. I lied and told them no shuttles were available, and that they had no choice but to continue on. I offered to carry some of there stuff ( I was already carrying the 3 man tent we were all sharing). I was surprised at what I found in their packs, which included extra pairs of shoes, Abercrombie Style dress clothes, and best of all, tanning lotion. Coconut scented tanning lotion. :facepalm:

I loaded up my pack with as much of their gear as I could (it took a while, but I finally convinced them to throw away the tanning lotion), and we headed off towards the Ptarmigan Tunnel.

Here is my pack, you can see the tanning lotion on the picnic table.
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Weather was moving in. We were warned that a large, slow moving rain storm was coming in. We hiked on anyways.
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Soon we reached Ptarmigan Lake
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Finally we made it to the tunnel
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Looking down on Elizabeth Lake from the tunnel
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We began our march down into the Belly River
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Looking out towards Helen Lake, with Ahern Pass above it
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Crossing the Belly River
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Dawn Mist Falls
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We continued hiking to the Gable Creek backcountry site. We set up our tent as rain began to come down.
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And it rained. From late in the afternoon of day 2, to the morning of ay 4. It didn't stop. 36 hours of straight rain. And it was cold. No pictures were taken on day 3 as we hiked up to Stoney Indian Pass, and down to the lake. However, I'm going to cheat again, and show a few pictures of what it normally looks like, when it doesn't rain. Just a few:
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For some reason, Sterling wouldn't put rain pants on. Much of the valley floor trail is over grown with brush, and was soaking wet. This got us soaking wet. Eventually, it caught up to him as we climbed up to Stoney Indian Pass. He began to stumble and mumble, and was lethargic. He was shivering pretty bad. We made him put on some layers, and I ran ahead down to Stoney Indian Lake to set up the tent. I was pretty nervous about this, but he warmed up fine once we got him out of his wet clothes and into the warm tent. The campsite was over full with campers at the lake, due to the weather. Instead of camping in a site, we set up right on the lake.
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DAY 4 AND 5 MAP
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The morning of day 4, the weather started clearing up. We headed down to the Waterton Valley
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I have collected quite a few cans of bears spray over years, including several cans that are expired. I always make rookie hikers in grizzly country test fire old cans, so they can get a feeling of how the spray works. On this trip, I had the boys fire it off in the Waterton Valley. I took a video of my brother spraying the can. You have to click on the video for it to play. If it doesn't work, click on the facebook link under the video.
www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10151830488249766&set=vb.672719765&type=3&theater


Next, we headed up to Fifty Mountain.
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We camped night 4 at Fifty Mountain. The next day, the boys were worn out and done. We were suppose to spend another night out along the high line trail, but they had overheard other campers talking about a short cut across Flat Top Mountain. So we bailed. Most of Flat Top Mountain got burned in a fire years ago, but the views along the trail are wonderful.
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By the time we reached the road, the main park shuttles were done running for the evening. It only took us about 10 minutes to hitch a ride back to our car. The end.

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scatman

Member
.
Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
1,469
The Coconato brothers on the same trip. That can only mean one thing - Trouble! :) Great scenery up in that part of the country. Thanks for sharing.
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,685
TANK TOPS!!

Glacier seams foreign to me for some reason. I've only been once, and did a few day hikes. I need to make time for some good time in the backcountry there. Thanks for sharing.
 

John Goering

Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
427
The Coconato brothers on the same trip. That can only mean one thing - Trouble!
Especially with the bear spray----. Thanks Joey, another great TR. Appears you need to make a pre-briefing and go through everyone's pack. Coconut lotion---mmmmmmmm. Not quite as good as a bacon vest, but close.
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Especially with the bear spray----. Thanks Joey, another great TR. Appears you need to make a pre-briefing and go through everyone's pack. Coconut lotion---mmmmmmmm. Not quite as good as a bacon vest, but close.
LOL, Yeah I thought I went over all their gear with them. Apparently I wasn't thorough enough. Here is another funny story from that trip.

We were sitting in our tent, the morning of day 3, while it was raining. We were dreading packing up in the rain, and hoping it would stop. As we are talking, Sterling pulls out a box of Cheese-Its, and starts munching on them while he is still wrapped up in his sleeping bag.
My brother Andrew says to him "what part of no food in the tent did you not understand?" Sterling replied "Oh, I thought it was only smelly food. Cheese-Its don't smell."

Then, a few minutes later, still in the tent, Andrew goes to pull his raincoat out of his backpack, and a granola bar falls out. "Whoops, forgot I had that in there." :facepalm:
 

Nodust

Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2013
Messages
122
Great pictures. Glacier is my favorite place to visit. Looking to return for another visit next year.
 

Chuck the Mauler

Formally known as "kcwins"
Joined
Aug 20, 2014
Messages
411
Classic line made me spit out my dinner. Watching the video..."...... Don't aim it at me". Looking forward to exploring a bit in Glacier this year. Thanks, Utah
 

Ben

Member
.
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Messages
1,871
epic trip.
no pictures of awesome beards though.
"put the safety back on. DON'T AIM IT AT ME!!"
my youngest brother brought canned chili on our trip to coyote gulch. i thought he was joking when he said it, then he took it out of his pack.
 

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Vegan.Hiker

Member
Joined
Jul 5, 2014
Messages
2,090
Great stories and report. What an awesome looking place. Hope to make it out there one day. That coconut lotion was probably in the tent as bear bait also until you confiscated it lol.
 
Last edited:

isleroyaleguy

Member
Joined
Jan 23, 2014
Messages
167
Here is a short report of a 5 day backpacking loop I did in Glacier National Park. Joining me was my youngest brother Andrew, who is exactly 11 years younger than me (we share the same birthday), and his best friend Sterling, who is pretty much like another brother to us. After years of talking about it, they finally came out for a backpacking trip. We spent several days sight seeing around the park, before starting our trip.
Here is the route: http://caltopo.com/map?id=2E2K
View attachment 26241

DAY 1 MAP
View attachment 26242


We started from the Going To The Sun Road, and headed up over Piegan Pass. My brother Andrew is to the left, Sterling is to the right.
View attachment 26150 View attachment 26151 View attachment 26152 View attachment 26153 View attachment 26155 View attachment 26156 View attachment 26157 View attachment 26158 View attachment 26160 View attachment 26161


In this view, you can see Piegan Pass, where we are headed. The saddle right of the snowfields.
View attachment 26162


In this view, Piegan Glacier is in the center
View attachment 26163

Me, hiking up towards the pass
View attachment 26238


Here you can see the road we came up from. Blackfoot and Jackson Glaciers are visible in far distance, Jackson Peak is on the right.
View attachment 26164 View attachment 26165 View attachment 26166 View attachment 26167


Are first look down into the Many Glacier Valley, the Grinnell Lake drainage. The Garden Wall, aka Continental Divide, is to the left.
View attachment 26169

Me at the pass
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Looking back up at the pass, after dropping down.
View attachment 26171


The boys hiking down from the pass:
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Waterfalls are everywhere in Glacier
View attachment 26176 View attachment 26177

View attachment 26183

Looking back at Lake Josephine
View attachment 26178


Our first night's camp was at the Many Glacier Campground. It's a car campground, but it has backpacker sites. We got in to camp rather late, so I'm going to cheat and show a few pictures from another trip. These are taken at the Many Glacier Hotel, on Swiftcurrent Lake. Probably my favorite non backcountry site in America.
View attachment 26180 View attachment 26179 View attachment 26181 View attachment 26182


DAY 2 AND 3 MAP
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Day 2. Mutiny! So I thought these 22 year old college boys would be in shape for this. They had been "training", or so they said. To my dismay, they began to ask about bailing out and taking a shuttle bus back to the car. I lied and told them no shuttles were available, and that they had no choice but to continue on. I offered to carry some of there stuff ( I was already carrying the 3 man tent we were all sharing). I was surprised at what I found in their packs, which included extra pairs of shoes, Abercrombie Style dress clothes, and best of all, tanning lotion. Coconut scented tanning lotion. :facepalm:

I loaded up my pack with as much of their gear as I could (it took a while, but I finally convinced them to throw away the tanning lotion), and we headed off towards the Ptarmigan Tunnel.

Here is my pack, you can see the tanning lotion on the picnic table.
View attachment 26184

Weather was moving in. We were warned that a large, slow moving rain storm was coming in. We hiked on anyways.
View attachment 26185 View attachment 26186 View attachment 26187 View attachment 26188

Soon we reached Ptarmigan Lake
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Finally we made it to the tunnel
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Looking down on Elizabeth Lake from the tunnel
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We began our march down into the Belly River
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Looking out towards Helen Lake, with Ahern Pass above it
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Crossing the Belly River
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Dawn Mist Falls
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We continued hiking to the Gable Creek backcountry site. We set up our tent as rain began to come down.
View attachment 26203 View attachment 26204 View attachment 26205 View attachment 26206 View attachment 26207



And it rained. From late in the afternoon of day 2, to the morning of ay 4. It didn't stop. 36 hours of straight rain. And it was cold. No pictures were taken on day 3 as we hiked up to Stoney Indian Pass, and down to the lake. However, I'm going to cheat again, and show a few pictures of what it normally looks like, when it doesn't rain. Just a few:
View attachment 26208 View attachment 26209 View attachment 26210 View attachment 26211 View attachment 26212 View attachment 26213 View attachment 26214 View attachment 26215


For some reason, Sterling wouldn't put rain pants on. Much of the valley floor trail is over grown with brush, and was soaking wet. This got us soaking wet. Eventually, it caught up to him as we climbed up to Stoney Indian Pass. He began to stumble and mumble, and was lethargic. He was shivering pretty bad. We made him put on some layers, and I ran ahead down to Stoney Indian Lake to set up the tent. I was pretty nervous about this, but he warmed up fine once we got him out of his wet clothes and into the warm tent. The campsite was over full with campers at the lake, due to the weather. Instead of camping in a site, we set up right on the lake.
View attachment 26216 View attachment 26217


DAY 4 AND 5 MAP
View attachment 26244



The morning of day 4, the weather started clearing up. We headed down to the Waterton Valley
View attachment 26218 View attachment 26219 View attachment 26220 View attachment 26221

I have collected quite a few cans of bears spray over years, including several cans that are expired. I always make rookie hikers in grizzly country test fire old cans, so they can get a feeling of how the spray works. On this trip, I had the boys fire it off in the Waterton Valley. I took a video of my brother spraying the can. You have to click on the video for it to play. If it doesn't work, click on the facebook link under the video.
www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10151830488249766&set=vb.672719765&type=3&theater


Next, we headed up to Fifty Mountain.
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We camped night 4 at Fifty Mountain. The next day, the boys were worn out and done. We were suppose to spend another night out along the high line trail, but they had overheard other campers talking about a short cut across Flat Top Mountain. So we bailed. Most of Flat Top Mountain got burned in a fire years ago, but the views along the trail are wonderful.
View attachment 26232 View attachment 26233 View attachment 26234 View attachment 26235 View attachment 26236 View attachment 26237

By the time we reached the road, the main park shuttles were done running for the evening. It only took us about 10 minutes to hitch a ride back to our car. The end.

Featured image for home page:
View attachment 26437
Great report and pics.
I love Glacier, and one of my favorite spots is the Fifty Mountain camp. We had a black bear in camp, last time we were there.
And a griz in the meadow above camp.
Love GNP
Thanks for sharing
Cheers
IRG
Attachment.jpg

Fifty Mountain meadow
 

Jammer

❤2Hike
.
Joined
Feb 23, 2012
Messages
640
Nice report.

I did your "Day 1" plus Siyeh pass as a point-to-point when I was a kid so your pics brought back a lot of good memories for me. I'd love to re-visit that area at some point. Back then I'd never seen a bear so I remember being on high alert and scared most of the day (didn't see any bears though.)

- Jamal
 

Nick

Spiral out.
.
Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,831
Amazing! Man, I really would love to go do some miles in GNP.

Day 2. Mutiny! So I thought these 22 year old college boys would be in shape for this. They had been "training", or so they said. To my dismay, they began to ask about bailing out and taking a shuttle bus back to the car. I lied and told them no shuttles were available, and that they had no choice but to continue on. I offered to carry some of there stuff ( I was already carrying the 3 man tent we were all sharing). I was surprised at what I found in their packs, which included extra pairs of shoes, Abercrombie Style dress clothes, and best of all, tanning lotion. Coconut scented tanning lotion. :facepalm:
:roflmao:

Were they happier after you took some weight or still pretty rough on them?
 

Joey

walking somewhere
Joined
Apr 1, 2014
Messages
878
Were they happier after you took some weight or still pretty rough on them?
Yes, and no. They had a great time and enjoyed it, but they had not backpacked before. So it wore them out. Most of that was my fault, I should have cut the mileage down for each day. The rain didn't help either. By the last few day's their bodies were real sore. Ankles and feet hurt. Shoulders hurt. All that stuff you get on your first backpack. There were definitely stretches of up hill where they weren't talking much.

At one point I was carrying both their sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and jackets. There is a picture somewhere of all 3 of us in front of Ptarmigan Tunnel, and my backpack looks bigger than my brother. I tried to find it to post in this report, but don't know where it went. It wasn't so much that they were light weights, as it was me trying to help them out. I wanted them to enjoy it, and that's hard to do when you have too much weight on your back.
 

HomerJ

Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2012
Messages
1,199
Day 2. Mutiny! So I thought these 22 year old college boys would be in shape for this. They had been "training", or so they said. To my dismay, they began to ask about bailing out and taking a shuttle bus back to the car. I lied and told them no shuttles were available, and that they had no choice but to continue on. I offered to carry some of there stuff ( I was already carrying the 3 man tent we were all sharing). I was surprised at what I found in their packs, which included extra pairs of shoes, Abercrombie Style dress clothes, and best of all, tanning lotion. Coconut scented tanning lotion. :facepalm:
Oh man, I laughed out load when I read this! Especially at the tanning lotion.

Awesome trip report!!! I need to go to GNP!!!!
 

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